Thursday, May 5, 2016

Heaven on earth, or what Jesus came to fix?

Many times, when doing evangelism, Christians make great claims about how giving your heart to Jesus fixes everything and makes your life pleasant in the here and now.

I'm so happy, and here's the reason why, Jesus took my burdens all away...
Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before...
Something good is going to happen to you, happen to you, this very day.  Something good is going to happen to you, Jesus of Nazareth is passing your way...

Now, there is a certain truth in this.

For one thing, when you live by good, solid moral standards such as telling the truth, being kind, controlling your temper, and working hard, you generally do encounter fewer bumps and bruises in life.  Although living by a high moral code is not the core of Christianity, it is a highly correlated benefit of Christianity.

For another thing, becoming a Christian brings the wonderful blessing of being forgiven from all your sins and freed from guilt, condemnation and the fear of hell.  Christians receive the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit who comforts us, illuminates our understanding, helps us navigate life, and promises never to leave us or forsake us.  The Holy Spirit also empowers us to live increasingly purer lives, resulting in the blessings that naturally flow from morality.  These truths are worthy of much celebration, and they do bring joy.

However, there is an impression we sometimes give: Today you are a miserable sinner, locked in the shackles of pain and darkness. But when you come to Jesus, you will get a job, balance your bank account, restore all your broken relationships and be healed from all your diseases and addictions.  We give the impression that turning to Jesus brings heaven on earth, that everything will be restored quickly in the here and now, and you will live happily ever after.

I think many people--especially those who grew up in churches where they were exposed to the idea that Jesus fixes everything, and the Christian life is free from pain--turn away from the Lord when they experience the realities of suffering in a fallen world.  They are primed and ready to swallow the devil's lie that, "A good God couldn't possibly allow such things to happen."

There are some earthly benefits to being a child of God.  Of course there are.  (Check out the book of Proverbs.)   But this is not the reason why we throw our lot in with Christ.  This is not the great promise of the faith.

The whole point of Christianity is that the world is broken, fatally wounded; dying, in fact.  The world is corrupt and decaying, and there would be no hope for any of us.

Except for Jesus.

Jesus gives us hope.

Jesus gives us hope that we can be saved from this deathly place.  He gives us hope that there is forgiveness for sins, through the blood He shed for us, which He poured out in payment for the staggering sin debt we had racked up.

Jesus gives us hope that there is eternal life in the future, and a place where justice will reign, where all will be made right, where death will be undone along with injustice, pain, sorrow, disappointment, danger and fear.  Our hope isn't for a nice house and a cancer free body in this world.  Our hope is for an eternal future of life and health and joy in the presence of God, fully redeemed, fully purified.  This is the great promise of the faith.

When we encounter the brokenness of the world--sexual abuse and political corruption, mental illness and terminal diseases, wars, car accidents, bank failures, floods, fires and tornadoes, friends who betray, plans that fizzle, dreams that die--it makes no sense to ask, "Why would God allow this?"  Instead, we need to say, "This is what Jesus came to fix.  This is why we need to set our eyes on things above, on our eternal hope."

Yes, in a sense I guess God does "allow" these things, but only in that He "allowed" Adam and Eve to defy Him.  Rebelling against God leads to death--not because God is mean, but because He is the source of life.  Rebelling against life leads to death.  Furthermore, rebellion is sin, and sin is a web that spreads.  Nobody's sin happens in a vacuum.  Sin always sends out disastrous ripple effects.  Sin constantly runs amuck among us, while the original beauty of God's creation stands as the backdrop to life, testifying to His existence and His grace.  We can be so blinded by Satan's schemes that we think the beauty is ours, and we mistakenly attribute the effects of humanity's cumulative sins to God.  May the Lord have mercy on our souls and open our eyes to the truth about these things.

God has always allowed us to choose, and He gives us what we want.  He even warns us, repeatedly, to choose well; but at the end, He gives us what we want.

"This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." 
~Deuteronomy 30:19

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